Political Campaign Guidelines

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is unambiguous about the fact that the Internal Revenue Code “absolutely” prohibits all 501(c)(3) organizations from participating in political campaign activity. 

Restrictions and Penalties

This prohibition includes directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign or election of a candidate for public office, regardless of whether that office is a local school board, a state comptroller, a member of Congress, or the President of the United States. For example, colleges and universities may not offer public statements in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office or make contributions to political campaign funds. 

Potential penalties for improper political activity by a college or university can include loss of the institution’s tax-exempt status, imposition of taxes on the institution and its responsible managers, and other risks, including federal or state government lawsuits, audits, and investigations. 

Nonpartisan Activities

However, 501(c)(3) organizations, including colleges and universities, may engage in activities unrelated to a candidate for public office. These include nonpartisan voter education drives and get-out-the-vote initiatives. Hosting or presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides conducted in a non-partisan manner also are perfectly fine, and indeed encouraged, as are other nonpartisan activities which describe, encourage, enable, and inform the democratic process.

GCR Approval Required

If you believe you might engage in any campaign-related activities in the future, you are required to communicate with GCR before any meetings and/or activities are undertaken on behalf of RIT. GCR shall determine if these activities are permissible and can be undertaken on behalf of RIT. All campaign-related activities undertaken on your own time, using your personal resources, do not have to be vetted. 


Additional guidance and a detailed list of permissible/impermissible campaign-related activities are provided by the American Council on Education.


Please address any questions that you have about political campaign-related and/or lobbying activities to Vanessa J. Herman, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, at vjhgrl@rit.edu.